Category: News

At the opening of the new Jerry Garcia exhibit at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, David Nelson was showered with some long-overdue recognition as one of Garcia’s earliest bandmates in the years leading up to the founding of the Grateful Dead.

Located on the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, the museum shines a light on Garcia’s starring role in the seminal California bluegrass scene in the early 1960s, when he and Nelson were both young bluegrass aficionados who played together in two of the first Bay Area bluegrass groups, the Wildwood Boys and the Black Mountain Boys. In those bands, Garcia picked a five-string banjo and Nelson strummed a vintage Martin guitar that Garcia gave him in a trade. He still has it.

“There were no young bluegrass bands on the West Coast in those days,” Nelson says. “It was our enthusiasm for bluegrass music that brought us together.”

Dennis McNally, author of “A Long Strange Trip,” a definitive history of the Grateful Dead, was on hand for the opening of the Garcia exhibit in March and saw firsthand the respect Nelson was accorded from the younger bluegrass and jam band musicians who performed with him that weekend. He points out that Garcia’s first professional gig was with Nelson at San Francisco State. He likes to think of the soft-spoken Nelson as “Jerry’s perfect sidekick.”…………